Art Rooney II discussed a variety of topics with Steelers beat writers on Thursday, ranging from the decision to retain offensive coordinator Matt Canada (largely because of Kenny Pickett and the growth that occurred late in the season) and his thoughts on future conference title games being played on neutral sites (he's against it).
The Steelers president would not, however, discuss a possible contract extension for Mike Tomlin, who in the past has typically received an extension with two years left on his deal. Tomlin, who recently concluded his 16th season as the Steelers head coach, is signed through the 2024 season.
"I don't like to speculate on Coach's contract," Rooney said, via Joe Rutter of the Tribune-Review. "We'll see."
Tomlin, 50, is the second-longest tenured head coach in Steelers history. Only Hall of Fame coach Chuck Noll has coached more games for the Steelers than Tomlin, who this past season extended his NFL record of 16 straight non-losing seasons to start his career. Steelers players were vocal in their desire to ensure that Tomlin would not suffer his first losing season following Pittsburgh's 2-6 start. The 2022 Steelers finished with a 9-8 record.
"That was just for Mike T.," Steelers running back Najee Harris said following Pittsburgh's Week 18 win over Cleveland. "When we started 2-6, he always said that, 'I'm not going to change the way I'm coaching. I'm not going to blink. I'm going to be the same guy.' He never changed. He never switched up. That's his leadership. For us to come in there and win for him and not have that losing season, I think that was big for us."
Hired at age 34 in 2007, Tomlin won a Super Bowl during his second season in Pittsburgh. The Steelers made it back to the Super Bowl under his watch in 2010, but were defeated by the Packers. Since that game, the Steelers have remained competitive but have at times failed to match expectations. Pittsburgh advanced to one other AFC title game last decade and hasn't won a playoff game since 2016.
"I'm not getting any younger," said the 71-year-old Rooney. "In terms of looking back, I don't look too far backward. I have to look at next year and what we have to do to get better. That's got to be our focus."
While Rooney's sidestep of the question was interesting, it may not necessarily mean much. Tomlin still has two years remaining on his current deal, so it's not like Rooney and the Steelers are pressed for time regarding Tomlin's contract.
There's also the possibility that Tomlin may be the one who is not in a rush to discuss an extension. CBS Sports' Aditi Kinkhabwala stated this past fall that Tomlin was "very, very close" to moving to a TV analyst gig a few years ago, so it's certainly possible that Tomlin may want to dive into that field at some point in the near future, perhaps when his current contract expires.
For now, Tomlin remains focused on the task at hand, which is currently the building and development of the 2023 season. While he may be the NFL's second-longest tenured head coach, Tomlin made it clear during his end-of-year press conference that his competitive fire still burns.
"More so," Tomlin said. "Increasingly so."
While Tomlin will continue to be the Steelers coach, they do have an assistant coach who could one day succeed Tomlin in Brian Flores, who was added to Pittsburgh's staff after he led Miami to consecutive winning seasons as the Dolphins head coach. Flores, who is currently interviewing with other teams for defensive coordinator positions, helped both sides of the ball during his first season in Pittsburgh.
"Coach Flo was huge," quarterback Kenny Pickett recently said on Cam Heyward's podcast, via Steel City Insider's Jim Wexell. "He really helped me in the two-minute drill. ... I would talk to him after every one."